Timeless Moments. Musings. Appa. Amma

Stable story !

This is a real life story. Set, far away from Mumbai’s Mahalakshmi Race course and the Mahabaleshwar mountains. Down in the deep plains is Madurai !

And there, there is this horse stable. A stable that adorns the display rack of a lonely house. Maintained immaculately by the lady of the house, and looked at longingly, from a distance by the man.

These are horses. Looking artistic to them. For the strange, inanimate objects that they are, they seem to carry life. They were mere objects on many retail shelves. But that was before they were picked up with care.

Over time, each one of them came to signify one member of the family.

There was one for the man of the house . Another for the lady. One each for the sons. Each signifying and standing for the real ! Each figure matched by the living’s characteristics. And so they were reared at home. By the lady and man. Quite unknown to their sons.

And when the daughter-in-laws came into the household, horses were added to the stable. And when a young one arrived, a pony took its rightful place. And of course, there is more space.

And when the sons, the daughters-in-law and the grandson are busy running their own courses much away from Madurai, the lady of the house dusts this stable clean. With a dry cloth. And then with a wet cloth. Wet with a tinge of a lonely tear, sweat and toil of many years, to make the family run its course.

And so, this inanimate stable which takes a life of its own adorns this house. Inanimate it is, to the rest of the world. For the man and the lady, the horses themselves seem to leap to life. Every time they look at them. And even when they don’t.

And so, this is the story of the stable. A stable that adorns the display rack of a lonely house. Maintained immaculately by the lady of the house, and looked at longingly, from a distance by the man.

This post concludes the series on ‘Horses for Courses’

Made in China

Their father bought them a car. This car. This red car. With yellow wheel caps, yellow seats and a white steering wheel. At the rear, this car sported a ‘Made In China’ tag. It was a different age. China was yet to be crowned an economic giant and ‘China’ still had a positive ring to it.

Having said that, the boys were disappointed that the car was not ‘Made in Japan’ as the other cars that their father bought them did.

The car did move with a smooth whine. For a few days, it was treated very well. Dust wiped off, many times, and given prime position right under the pillow, as the boys slept.

The days wore on and all hell gradually broke loose. For the car suddenly started finding legs of tables, chairs, humans and plain straight walls in its way.

A few months passed.

The car began to take the air. I mean, it was flying about. Hurled with supreme speed , accuracy and intent, which, if information is to be believed, inspired zillions of Tata Sumos to take to the air in Tamil movies !

The car just stood its ground. Dented here and there, the windshield broken, and the odd plastic tyre, twisted, but standing its ground. And the engine still whined very well. Made in China. It was !

A few years passed. The car still whined but moved. And pretty well too.

On a day when then mother and father were away, the younger boy, with a penchant for design and art worked on it. With a sharp blade and imagination. as tools. ‘

Volvo’. He wrote. ’10’ he wrote. ‘MRF’ he wrote. Actually, scrapping the red paint. Revealing grey metal inside. And suddenly, the car seemed to have acquired a certain character.

The rally driving he saw on Doordarshan needed an outlet. And this car was right there.

The older one, not given to such talent and imagination, hemmed and hawed. And took to moaning the loss of original paint. The parents were subtly made aware with select breaches of information. And to his surprise, they gave him a look that almost told him ‘grow up’ !

Many decades pass.

The young boy with imagination is now a successful corporate type. Using the imagination to scrape out the surface and give character to projects and proposals. And by the way, blessed with a young son, who is just studying the art of making cars fly.

And yes. The car that was made in China, when ‘Made in China’ had a different ring to it, stands. A little broken and written all over, but standing proudly !

And the older son, yes, the same one who almost got the ‘grow up’ look from his parents, hopes to garner some sympathy hits on his blog through this post ! At the least, he pleads for a different ‘look’ from his readers.

In return, he promises to work on his imagination.

The soul is fresh !

Clicked at the Golden Lotus Pond
Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai. Aug ’08

Imagine traveling 3 hours one way in a public bus , traveling from one city to another. Sometimes standing. All the way through. Often times jostling with a crowd, the constituents of which will get on and off. But the aggregate numbers will always remain steady or perhaps get higher.

And then, in about 6-7 hours, return. Traveling the same 3 hours. Jostle with new shoulders and rush home to take care of recalcitrant sons & spread happiness in the family. And then get out of bed, the next day. To repeat the routine. The next day. And the next day. And so on.

And oh, by the way, in between those 6 hours of travel, stand in front of young minds and teach for many hours. About plants. Science. Environment. And so on. For a few years. And then, the government transfer comes finally, as rain to parched lands. And those tired legs get some respite. The soul is still fresh.

Years keep flowing by. Her husband, an able vivacious, intelligent and loving man, with loads of friends has a new companion, who he has been seeing for some years now. The doctor introduces him to her and her sons as a certain Parkinson. This Parkinson is no ordinary push over.

Like a string of native kings falling by the wayside to make way for an invading imperial force, each part of the body is ceded to Parkinson. Except perhaps the mind. That freedom struggle still is on. As before. Very much on. Twenty years is a long time. The soul is a trifle weary. But still is fresh. The lady manages to keep it so. Both hers and her husband’s.

In the in between years, relatives come and go. Come when in need and go on satiation! Friends come and go. Actually many go. And only a few come. Many laugh aloud at the woman & her plight. She endures those sardonic grins with a surfeit of will, happiness and just a plain need to keep going, No matter what.

The years roll on. And then, she retires. From work. The husband strains every sinew to ensure he retires only after completing his full term. And retires too. She ensures his soul is fresh to do so.

Other health problems surface. For her too. The finances look shaky. The house that stands in their name, stands like a majestic evidence of all that it took to put it together. There are options available. ‘Compromise on values’ does not figure on the list.

Problems persist. And then, roll away. Like water on a lotus leaf. New ones, continue to emerge. The soul is still fresh.

Somewhere in-between she gets her sons married. Small savings over years make way for grand weddings. ‘Talk of the town’ types. The daughter-in-laws are inducted well into the family,with a perspicuity that many a corporate would pay a kings ransom for.

She encourages her sons to move on and see the world. The sons move to different cities. Tending to their own lives & holding on to the telephone lines and the odd train journey to stay alive to ‘home’. A grandson arrives. Happiness abounds. The soul is still afresh.

So, she tends to her husband & his now permanent companion, Parkinson, in a distant city. Oh, by the way, upon retirement, she learns how to operate the computer & gets herself familiar with the Internet.

One able son opens a Gmail account for her & gives her lessons over the phone. She picks up the pieces. Autodidacts every piece. Bit by bit. She understands Browses. E-mails. Reads twitter posts. And stays connected with her sons, their families and to the rest of the world. The soul. Oh that’s fresh.

Her life & her husband’s life are an epitome of survival. And a will to carry on, no matter what. A desire to make a difference and to raise sons who perhaps will do the same. A story of beauty & lessons in an endless struggle. A soul that refuses to cave in. A soul that is still fresh.

One of her sons is a torch bearer of sorts, starting with being an entrepreneur while still being wet behind the ears at college ! And shines through, to date, and holds tremendous promise.

The other son, hems and haws. Meanders through the labyrinths of the corporate world. Someday, he believes, he will be worthy of being their son and all what they put into him.

Today, he catches people celebrating Amitabh Bachan‘s birthday, and thinks about his heroes. A few empty stares into a Saturday sky and lurking pigeons later, he proceeds to write. About his heroes.

With moist eyes and a tear that’s just dried, on his left cheek, he begins,

“Imagine traveling 3 hours one way in a public bus , traveling from one city to another. Sometimes standing. All the way through. Often times jostling with a crowd….

A Migrant’s Balcony

‘A balcony with a view’ , friends used to say. The airport was visible from here. That was until sky raises started coming up close by. In some days the view would be gone completely.

Everyday i stand and watch the sky rise, get closer to the sky and workers working on them, get to new floors ! All, On the way up ! Today, the sun is yet to arrive. There is a slight breeze which nudges the odd discarded polythene pack into aimless movement.

I look emptily into the sky & in that ever coalescing clouds, just like my future ! A shape now. A different one the next minute. And a new one tomorrow. I look into my tea and tea mug. My tea mug says, ‘SMILE’.

Some distance away, migrant ‘labour’ work to do their part in man’s quest for development. A couple of incomplete floors below, on an incomplete balcony, their cloth line catches the breeze and flutters.

I wonder what hopes and tales the breeze holds. These clothes seem to flutter, only when they are off these workers!

I wonder what drives these men. The thought of a family ‘back home’ and their ‘upkeep’ provide the fuel for such providers. Perhaps. Perhaps the allure of ‘big city living’ is the fuel. Perhaps it is that phase in life where the every muscle is stretched to ‘do something’ ‘worthwhile’, that is proving to be the fuel.

I think. Did they know, when they played with carefree gay abandon in their fields, that someday, they had to trade those open fields, small streets, talkative neighbours, interested friends, simple conversation to such a borrowed high rise living. I wonder.

The clouds have already taken a new shape. My imagination runs riot, trying to affix objects to the shapes out there. The clouds seem to recognise my attempt and move faster.

Down below, another worker is on his mobile phone. He has been on it for sometime now. He now sits down to talk. His animated movement of hands for a while now, ceases. He sits. One hand on the phone. Phone pressed to the ear. Head in the other hand.

From where i sit, i see him clearly. My eyes remain fixed on him. The only occasional move is to sip the tea. The tea mug continuous exhort me to ‘SMILE’.

In about five minutes, he completes the call. Long after the call is done, he continues to sit on the mound of sand he has been sitting on. Phone in his pocket. Hand holding the head. Staring into the sky. I wonder who he could have been speaking to.

Perhaps it was the wife & an assortment of lost feelings. A lonely parent & a bundle of timeless dreams. A child and tons of possibilities for the future. . Perhaps. He seemed to look up into the clouds. The same clouds & their coalescing shapes.

My eyes dart to the clouds too. In the new shapes that emerge, i seek answers. I see open play fields, carefree play, a fathers presence and mothers care. I wonder if he sees these shapes. In a while, i notice that the mound of sand continues to stare at me but the worker has moved on.

To play his part on building that sky rise. The labourer and the mound of sand would soon be gone, leaving the sky rise to kiss the clouds.

Up above, the clouds remain focused on creating new shapes with gay abandon. Complex shapes, this time around. Some questions for me, perhaps.

The neighbours’ Worldspace radio, with BOSE speakers blasts the song “it wasnt me’.

The clouds seem to pounce on that and ask : ‘Really?’

I stare vaguely into nowhere. A stronger breeze flutters and moves more clothes on the cloth line below. The empty tea mug continues to exhort me to smile. The Sun has arrived. I begin drawing the curtains.

Far away, another aircraft takes off.

Long Distance Call.

Many years back, we installed this bell back home. It is the calling bell. It doesnt run on electricity. It works on the old system of ‘you-pull-string-i-ring’ !

In ways more than one, this bell, has stood at the gate.

Every visitor to our home has to pass through its majestic beam & distinct clang. Every visitor rings the bell to announce his or her arrival. Particularly appealing, was the fact that every visitor could create his or her own music according to the way in which he or she pulled the string !

Like the good old times !!!

And everybody did so. The naughty child who wants to clamour on to his fathers shoulder just to create music . The newspaper vendor who is in a hurry, but just wants to announce the papers’ delivery. The milk vendor. The old relative. The young student. Me. My brother. Friends. The pharmacists. Mere Acquaintances. Etc. Etc. All types.

In a way, the bell has witnessed all the entrys and exits at home. The entry & eixits of all house hold helps. The debtors. Creditors. Health. Wealth. People. Possessions.

Standing mute spectator or musical announcer. My marriage. My brother’s marriage. Listless times. Hospital times. Energetic times. My moving to Bangalore. And now to Mumbai.The bell has stood its ground !

Everytime the gate opened for the car or the bike to drive in, the bell would chime. And i would caress the outer brass, just to feel the distinct low chime ! The bell at the gate seemed welcoming to me. Never faltering. Always welcoming.

And that perhaps has been a philosophy that we have tried practicing: To stay welcoming. Of change, of people, their ideas, opinions and quirks. Far from successful, the effort continues, with the good old bell, singing a pole star rhyme!

Today, for some reason, the bell seems to beckon. The old chime & the music of the caress wake me up in the middle of the night. The chime seems to have travelled all the distance to Mumbai !

Perhaps the bell is missing me. Perhaps it seeks the caress of my finger & recreate that music ‘those’ times. Perhaps its time to create new music with the old bell !

Perhaps its time to go home for a while.

Special Timeless Moments

Amma and Appa are visiting us. We have been trying to get them to come into Bangalore for ages. Suddenly, the thought struck them that they perhaps can spend some time with us. The long, slow drive seemed to have had them tired at the end of it all. But we were happy to see them.

Appa’s battle of sorts with Parkinsons seems to be intensifying. For i can see the battle all across his body. Amma’s tending of him seems to be taking a toll on her as well. Not that they were ever mentioning it. They are their usual selves. But we know, looking at them, they are but a semblance of the selves that they were some years back.

But we just sat and had conversations. Sharing jokes about a time gone by. Moments that were no longer with us except in our memory. I hope to spend some time with them through the coming days. To try and lighten up their sunset years.

My mind raced back to the book that I have been reading : Flow. Slow and steady progress. Its an amazing read.

“As people move through life, passing from the hopeful ignorance of youth into sobering adulthood, they sooner or later face an increasingly nagging question: “is this all there is?” Childhood can be painful, adolescence confusing, but for most people, behind it all there is this expectation that after one grows up, things will get better. ….

…But inevitably the bathroom mirror shows the first white hairs, and confirms the fact that those extra pounds are not about to leave; inevitably eyesight begins to fail and mysterious pains begin to shoot through the body…

..When this happens, few people are ready. “Wait a minute, this cant be happening to me. I haven’t even begun to live. Wheres all the money that i have supposed to have made? Where are all the good times that i was going to have ?”

The common place focus on wealth and its accumulation and not stopping by to soak into each moment in the hope that the next one is going to be better is where the world is. As the sands of time slip through our hands, the importance of having to feel it, enjoy it and make each moment worthwhile became all the more apparent !

We sat there and discussed. Laughed and carried on. The moments that we discussed were etched in our memories. Moments that would stay on. Moments that we had soaked into. This moment will stay etched in my mind for a long time to come.

music is by Pink Floyd. Time. One of my favourites. Dedicated to my father. A timeless hero for me.